Dying to Win? The Goldman Dilemma in Legend and Fact

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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  • 1 Central Queensland University, Australia
  • | 2 Australian National University
  • | 3 James Cook University, Australia
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One of the implicit justifications for antidoping is that athletes are so committed to winning that they will take performance-enhancing substances regardless of the apparent consequences. Athletes are alleged to be, quite literally, willing to die to win. Support for this claim usually centers on the results of research by physician Bob Goldman, in which athletes were asked to respond to a hypothetical dilemma in which they were offered spectacular success in their chosen sport, but at a heavy price: they would die after five years of glory. In this paper, we examine the origins of this bargain, now popularly referred to as the Goldman dilemma, finding that both the methodology and implications of the original work have repeatedly been described inaccurately in both popular and scientific writings. These errors reflect both poor scholarship and deliberate misuse, where the flawed narrative is used to justify contentious policy decisions.

Moston is with the Dept. of Psychology, Central Queensland University, Townsville, Australia. Hutchinson is with the Dept. of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Engelberg is with the College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia.

Moston (S.Moston@ cqu.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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